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SurlyFest Brings Out Beer and Diehards


This past Saturday marked the 5th annual SurlyFest beer festival at their Brooklyn Center brewery.

Those in attendance, fitted with knit beer-can hats, kilts, and various other Surly merchandise, displayed their “Surly Nation” fanaticism, cheerily waiting in long lines for ½ liter samplings of the extreme style beer. While other beer and brewery festivals—like Summit Backyard Bash and Autumn Brew Review—attract beer fans looking for a fun day in the sun with good beer, music, and food, this festival feels more like a pilgrimage of the devout. Numerous volunteers, always within arms reach at SurlyFest, earned the right to volunteer at Surly events by helping support the brewery's “Give a Damn” charity through volunteer work. That’s right, you have to volunteer to get the chance to volunteer. 

There’s a reason for the fervor. This is some rockin’ good beer! Surly beers pack a punch, with big flavor, and odd twists on traditional styles.

surlyfest crowd

Highlights of SurlyFest 2012:

  • Much like Where’s Waldo, if you scan the crowd long enough at a good Minnesota event, you’ll eventually spot Mayor R.T. Rybak, and he did not disappoint, making a mid-afternoon appearance at the brewery.
  • A stellar selection of food trucks made their way to the grounds, serving beer-friendly munchies: Smack Shack, Natedogs, Vellee Deli, Gastrotruck, Rusty Taco, and Aki’s Backstube.
  • The Goondas, Abstract Artimus, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo provided live music, with Koo Koo stealing the show. The toddler-friendly hip-hop band found the perfect adult audience—slightly inebriated, dancing and responding to calls for ninja poses and unicorn pledges. (Full disclosure, my kids love the rapping duo, and my family has been approaching groupie status this year, as we’ve caught their act three times since May.)
  • Surly poured Fiery Hell, Cacao Bender, and Bandwagon IPA as limited pours, available “until they’re gone,” as well as Hell, Furious, Surly Fest, Cynic Ale, and Bender from constantly flowing kegs.
  • Surly’s cult favorite Wet beer, while not available, was temptingly visible stacked high in the corner of the warehouse. The seasonal beer, to be released tonight at Ice House in Minneapolis, is uniquely seasonal, made from just-picked fresh hops, as opposed to the dry hops typically used to make beer. The fresh hops make for a clean flavor and a more volatile brew. It’s made to be drank with a short shelf life and only available in late September and early October—coinciding with the hop harvest.

If you didn’t make it this year and want to go, be warned tickets go quickly. You gotta act fast in Surly Nation!

Koo Koo   Koo Koo

   Surly Sign

Surly cans   serving surly beer

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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